Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What about church?

So, what about church? What do you think about it? Seriously....

Is it a place you go on Sunday just to say you went?

Is it a place you go so you can have  your weekly social hour?

Perhaps you go when it's convenient - you know, the kids are up anyway, we have nothing better to do...

Or maybe you go "because we have always gone."

A better question yet - WHY NOT CHURCH?

Have you been hurt or offended by a person/leader at church?

Maybe you didn't like the music or the preacher went to long?

Maybe your friends don't go, so why go?

Perhaps there is a sporting event that is taking place and you feel the need to go there?

It's the only day you have as a family....let's relax at home?

As a minister's wife and before that as a deacon's daughter....I have at least thought ALL of the above and at some point perhaps they have all been true. However, the older I get and the more I grow closer to Jesus...the more I realize that church is family. I am NOT talking about a building that you attend on Sunday morning....I am talking about the body, the people, that comprise what is the CHURCH.

Recently, I heard it said that the reason attendance is down is because people aren't committed to their churches...I agree but I think there is more to it.

Let me ask you this...Why family?

Think about it...does your family EVER offend you? Do you get tired of listening to the same old thing? Has there ever been a time where you wanted to stay home from a family event and didn't simply because it was FAMILY? For the most part, we are committed to family. We will fight HARD for a relationship just because they are our FAMILY.

I know this from my own experience as well as from others. I have a close friend who has gone through some REALLY tough extended family the point of sister-in-laws criticizing, siblings judging, etc...It would have been easy for her to say "Forget it...their loss." Yet, I watched a truly amazing thing...she FOUGHT for a relationship, she worked to love in spite of disagreement, she reached out instead of pulling away. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FAMILY

Back to the church....What IF we saw a church as FAMILY? What if instead of comparing notes on what church is doing what programs and which church has the most to offer - we instead looked and said "Where can I contribute to this FAMILY?" Once in a church, what if instead of throwing our hands up and saying "I'm outta here" and walking away - we FOUGHT for relationships, we worked at it, we loved, we reached out...suddenly the stakes just got higher.

I am NOT talking about simple attendance on Sunday morning...although that is important. Anyone can get up and tolerate an hour or two at a church. What I am talking about is investing in a FAMILY. Putting their needs ahead of our own...reaching out to them no matter the cost, fighting for the relationship.

This issue has me up at this crazy hour of 4:30 in the morning...well actually since like 2:00. Anyway, as I lie in bed TRYING to go back to sleep I still wrestled with this whole - church attendance/commitment thing. As is typically the case, I knew that if I couldn't sleep God must have something to show me. I got up and after taking our puppy out I began really seeking what God was wanting me to hear....

Acts 2: 42 "And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers."

Acts 2:46 "EVERY day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude."

As I read these verses, and then the commentary in my Bible - a few key points caught my attention.

First there were FOUR things that they DEVOTED (COMMITMENT) themselves to:

1.) Teaching of the Apostles - ie. Sunday morning church, Bible Studies, Small Groups.

2.) Fellowship - ie parties, socials, special events

3.) Breaking of Bread - they ATE together, they spent time around the dinner table, like EVERY family should.

4.) Prayer - They were COMMITTED to times of prayer.

Beyond these four things there was an amount of time and places that they met:

1.) EVERY was a FIRST priority, before anything else. They didn't "fit it in" they instead made it FIRST. It was a DAILY thing to be together as a church family...not a once or twice a week thing.

2.) FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE - Did you see that? They were in each others homes, daily. Like a FAMILY should be. They were JOYFUL with each other.

I have to say - some of these hit me HARD. As I was lying awake and thinking of our church family, I was quick to get frustrated and angry and start saying "Well they should..." and then I read these points...

Am I eating with my church family? Am I praying? Am I devoted to teaching - not just going since I am a minister's wife? Am I a part of fellowships with a JOYFUL attitude? Am I inviting people to break bread in MY home? Am I putting my church family FIRST EVERY DAY?

Shaking head in, not like the church in Acts and not like the Bible commands. Oh sure, I am frustrated with attendance, I get more than a little discouraged to hear of a family going to another church for whatever reason, I am looking for the right "program" to attract families....but am I DOING IT GOD'S way?

Being on staff, Joel and I have an inside close up look at how churches are struggling both in growth and financially. We are more than aware of the stark budget cuts and having to trim ministry things here and there and to be honest it DOES get discouraging...but then I come to Acts chapter 2 and I realize it's not about the amount of money our church has - PLEASE DON'T MISUNDERSTAND _ YOU NEED TO TITHE (that's a whole different topic) but money doesn't make the church grow. Yes, money helps expand the ways a church can do missions and reach out but that isn't the key to a growing church.

At the end of Acts 2 it says "They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And EVERY day the Lord added to them those who were being saved." vs 46b -47.

I have this hunch, okay more than a hunch, belief - that IF we were to do what the church in Acts did - our churches would be overflowing. Instead, we have allowed work, sports, relaxation, entertainment, etc to become first and put the FAMILY last...both biologically speaking and the church family.

Here's the challenge to myself and to you:

1.) Find a church family that you can be COMMITTED to - in the good, the bad, the ugly. Will you disagree? Yep! Will you get angry and frustrated? Yep! Will you be blessed beyond measure? ABSOLUTELY! Be committed - don't give up on your church family when things are down or hard. STAY IN AND like my friend and WORK toward a relationship and unity.

2.) Open your HOME on a regular basis. This is a tough one for me...I have four kids and my home is often not clean (okay pretty much NEVER clean). I have a REALLY small house - it's crowded with 6 of us! I don't like to cook...the excuses go on and on...but I can't ignore Acts 2 when it says THEY MET IN HOMES....I want my home to be a place we can break bread together and be a part of each others daily lives.

3.) EVERY day connect with someone within your church family. A phone call. A cup of coffee. A text message. A facebook post. A lunch date. Somehow, someway, connect EVERY DAY!

4.) Make your church your FIRST commitment - not an "if it fits in". When your church is having an event make sure that you and your family are there! Make Sunday a CHURCH with NO exceptions type commitment...that means YES you tell the coach your daughter can't play in the softball tournament if it is on Sunday. That means that YES you are there on Wednesday nights even if you are missing an athletic event or some other thing. When you look at the calendar for the month - the church events are the FIRST things written in - not the last!

As the social/event/calendar coordinator of the Arrington Family - this is my challenge as well. Yes, we are on staff so in a sense we or at minimum Joel - is usually at all church events but I want more. I want a FAMILY relationship, a committed attitude. I want to be reaching out through my home, to be praying with and eating with church family. I want to CONNECT EVERY DAY!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What if I did what I could?

I am a sucker for a good fictional story...I really am! I have ALWAYS loved to read and most definitely  fiction is my favorite. I can just get completely and totally lost in a good book. In fact, one of the funniest stories regarding my reading obsession was as a young teen I prayed for the characters in my book at our family breakfast table...Yep! True story.

Yet, as much as I love to read it is often hard for me to get into a book that isn't fiction that doesn't tell a story...however, the book "She did what she could" by Elisa Morgan has reached out and grabbed me. It's a short little book - just over 100 pages. I was given it for Christmas by my sister.

The background of the book is the story of Mary in Mark 14:3-9. Having been a Christian for over 30 years and having grown up in a Christian family, for the most part I think I have heard or read almost all the stories in the Bible. However, this particular story was one that if I have read it I certainly didn't remember it. The scene is Jesus and many of His followers reclining a dinner table. As was custom, women were in the background and not necessarily a part of the meal. Yet, Mary knows and realizes who Jesus is. She quietly and yet with determination goes to him, breaks open a jar of nard and pours it over His head. Those at the table are indignant! How could she waste such expensive oil? Yet Jesus says these words that are SO captivating...

  "Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She did what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman's deed will be remembered and discussed."

Without going into the entire premise for the book, you can read it for yourself, let me just highlight what the Lord has shown me through this passage:

1.) "Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me?" - Confession time...I often find myself "criticizing" other believers and what or how they give. I can even say - why wouldn't they save that for people who need it - why did they donate it to this particular ministry and not that one. Yet, God alone knows their heart and it is HIS to receive as He wishes.

2.) "She did what she could..." - oh this resonated for me. I am NOT the picture of a minister's wife. I don't play the piano or sing, I don't like to cook, I am horrible at sending cute little cards to those who miss Sunday School, I am not creative in doing a bulletin boards, I don't know cutesy little crafts that kids can do, I don't sew costumes for the children's programs, I am not quiet and behind the scenes, I do speak my mind and later regret it...etc. So, when God revealed to me that I would be a minister's wife for life...that was hard to swallow. I was a lot like Moses - a long list of what I COULDN'T do. Somehow, in all His grace and mercy God reached down and sort of said "Are you done telling me what you can't do? I am ready to show you what you can do!" As I read this book, I was reminded that instead of focusing on what I can't do - God wants me to do what I CAN do! I can listen, I can organize, I can type, I can teach a Bible Study, I can go help a new mom with household chores, I can babysit so that same mom can have time to herself, I can encourage...He only asks for me to do what I can do in that moment at that point in time.

3.) "wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world this woman's deed will be remembered and discussed." Notice that her deed was a small one - she only anointed him with oil and yet her deed is still remembered. A small, little deed. Something that she probably thought insignificant and unimportant but she felt led to do - remembered for all time. I don't want to be remembered for the amount of my tithe, I don't want to be remembered for the wife that I am, I don't want to be remembered for the hours I donated...when people discuss my life - I pray that they will say "She did what she could, with what she had, in the time she was given." Nothing more, nothing less.

As I look at this book - my prayer is that I will chose every moment of every day to do what I can for the the Kingdom of God. May I no longer focus on the things I can't do but instead choose to do what I can in that moment.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let's have a recap of 2012....


Although I have blogged some of the big points of 2012...I thought I would take this time and recap for those of you who want to know where the Arrington family is at and where we have been! 

January: Found us settled in our new home of Borger, Tx. We enjoyed the fact that we no longer had to shovel ourselves out of the driveway, while at the same time missing the snowy mountains of Colorado! Another biggie for January was the decision to bring Hannah home for the remaining part of her freshman year...although an adjustment, it has turned out beautifully!

February: Not much happened in February other than cold temperatures and fun times at home. 

March: Hannah and Malachi had the opportunity to go to Laredo Tx on a mission trip with our church. Laredo is on the Mexico/Texas border and resembles more of Mexico than Texas. This was a growing and stretching experience for them as it was the first mission trip they had gone on without Joel or I there with them! Hannah looks forward to continuing her learning of the Spanish language so that she can share with more people as God opens the door. 

April: Joel was able to travel to his first children's ministry conference in Atlanta, Ga and God reaffirmed his desire to reach families! Meanwhile, Kestra was able to re-enter the world of softball which she has missed since living in Arkansas and Malachi and Tyler both jumped in on some soccer action!

May: Hannah turned 15! Where did the years go? Tyler was baptized - being the last of our four children to publicly profess his faith. Joel had the honor of baptizing him and we were blessed that my parents could join us for this moment! 

June: Began the first of a crazy summer full of camps and trips! Tyler was able to attend Sonlight Christian Camp in Pagosa Springs thanks to a generous scholarship and he LOVED it! We are hoping to send him again this summer but aren't sure yet. Meanwhile - Hannah, Malachi, and Kestra all went to youth camp in the Houston area. Again - a first for them without Joel and I as leaders. With all four kids gone for a week - Joel and I were able to enjoy some "us" time and even got away for a night in Amarillo! Tyler spent his 11th birthday with Grandparents and got more than just a little spoiled!

July: We traveled to Colorado for the fourth and had the opportunity to celebrate the fourth of July with family in Silverton, Co. Upon returning from that trip, Kestra and I headed out to Sherman Tx for a children's camp - it was a great time for us and we really enjoyed it. Everyone with the exception of Hannah got to go to another Children's camp here in the area. Malachi went as a Jr Counselor. While we were gone, Hannah had her first go at being "home alone"! Thanks to some church family checking in on her - she did AMAZING! The last of July had myself and the three older ones off to Arlington, Tx for a youth mission trip. It was simply AWESOME to experience third world type conditions right here in our own state - we hope to go again this summer!!! Malachi turned 14 bringing home the reality that my babies aren't so little any more! Joel also celebrated his 37th birthday complete with a surprise party put on by parents of our children's ministry!
August: The definite highlight for all of us was WALT DISNEY WORLD! This was the first time for the younger three to fly on an airplane and a first for everyone except Joel to go to Disney (well, I went as a kid but don't really remember it). So many memories were made and it was a FANTASTIC way to end the summer! Also in August, Hannah and Malachi started school through Texas Virtual Academy. TXVA is an on-line K-12 school that allows for the academics of public school but in a home environment. We are LOVING it! I act as a monitor or aide while the kids have actual teachers on-line. Both Hannah and Malachi have adjusted well to this type of school and their grades are so great! Kestra and Tyler continued on at Borger schools and are doing great! 

September: The biggest highlight was that Joel got to travel to Zimbabwe Africa with our Pastor and 3 other men. The Lord laid Zimbabwe on my heart back in 2010. After returning, I said that I would go back in 2012...the Lord fulfilled this by allowing Joel to go in 2012 and thus uniting us in our desire to continue missions to the country of Zimbabwe. We don't know when but we are both committed to returning to Zim in the coming years! 

October: After a busy August and September - October was a welcome down time for us of regrouping. 

November: Back in the summer God planted the idea with Joel of a time of celebrating the harvest in a unique way with a western flair. This came to pass in the form of our Boots N Jeans weekend in November where the Bar D Wranglers came from Durango Co and we had a Chuckwagon dinner! Such a fun time! We also celebrated Kestra's 13th birthday - YIKES 3 teens - as well as Thanksgiving with Joel's parents. Kestra also made the Jr High Basketball team adding to her sports!

December: Parties, Dinners, Parties! One of the definite perks of ministry life is the many parties you are invited to and get to participate in at Christmas! We also enjoyed a simpler family Christmas and time with my sister and parents in Plano, Tx. I celebrated my 38th birthday and am just so blessed by where God has me in life!

2013 - we don't know all that God has in store but we are anxiously awaiting to see! Things we are looking forward to this next year:

Hannah will turn 16 and most likely get her license! 
Malachi will turn 15 and will be working toward getting his as well as starting HS!
More camps and trips through church
Joel potentially completing his Bachelor's Degree through Liberty University! 
A visit with close friends from college in May
Joel performing his first wedding on his birthday in July!